Bridging the Gap: A Descriptive Study of Knowledge and Skill Needs in the First Year of Oncology Nurse Practitioner Practice

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Abstract

Purpose/Objectives:

To identify the knowledge and skill needs of oncology nurse practitioners (ONPs) as they enter cancer care practice, and to identify necessary educational resources.

Design:

Cross-sectional, descriptive.

Setting:

A national e-mail survey.

Sample:

610 self-described ONPs from the Oncology Nursing Society's database.

Methods:

The project team developed a 28-item electronic survey. The survey was randomly distributed via e-mail.

Main Research Variables:

ONPs' feelings of preparedness in the first year of ONP practice.

Findings:

In the first year of practice, 90% of ONPs rated themselves as prepared or very prepared in obtaining patient history, performing physical examination, and documenting findings. ONPs rated themselves as not at all or somewhat prepared in clinical issues of chemotherapy/biotherapy competency (n = 81, 78%), recognizing and managing oncologic emergencies, (n = 77, 70%), and recognizing and managing drug toxicities (n = 63, 61%). The primary source of oncology education for ONPs new to practice was almost exclusively the collaborating or supervising physician (n = 84, 81%).

Conclusions:

Specific knowledge and skills, such as information about chemotherapy, oncologic emergencies, and side effects of therapy, are needed before an ONP enters a cancer care practice.

Implications for Nursing:

Cancer-specific education should be made available to new ONPs as they begin independent practice.

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